I can't think of the line "To be or not to be" without a smile emerging on my face after seeing Florida Studio Theatre's "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)."
Even the word "abridged" makes me laugh.
The show features all of Shakespeare's plays, about 36 or so, performed in various comic sketches. Never have Shakespeare's tragedies been so funny. Three actors do it all - from "Romeo and Juliet"to "Hamlet."
I walked in expecting funny, but what was performed was levity on an extraordinarily entertaining level. A hilarious trio of actors - Michael Daly, Brad DePlanche and Christopher Patrick Mullen - had the crowd, and me, in stitches.
They didn't just act Shakespeare, they made it their own with a very witty script and the direction of Jim Helsinger.
This isn't the Bard as you know it. Shakespeare's works take on various forms that include a cooking show and appearances by Darth Vader, stick puppets featuring George Bush and the Olson Twins, a toy robot dinosaur and a blow up whale. Plus, there's plenty of audience participation.
For a fast-pace show like this, Daly, DePlanche and Mullen have the stamina to entertain without getting lost in the dialogue, costume changes and Saturday Night Live-ish comic elements. Of course, already a couple of weeks into the show, they look and feel right at home on stage, as if they've been doing "The Complete Works" all their life.
They made the Bard fun while paying homage to the one of the greatest literary masters ever. Even those who are timid towards Shakespeare will thoroughly enjoy this show. In fact, audience members will walk away wanting to read all the Shakespeare they can get their hands on.
"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" continues various times at FST through Aug. 23.